Create a travel itinerary that your inner explorer and your inner hermit will love
Have you ever been excited about an upcoming trip, only to find yourself overwhelmed by your travel schedule when you arrive?
Recently, during a trip to Montreal, I found myself caught up in this all too familiar scenario. On the first day, I packed my schedule with a lot of activities. I was on a mission to soak in the culture and taste the local cuisine.
But guess what happened on day two?
I felt utterly overwhelmed, even though my schedule was much less busy.
This was a wake-up call for me. I realized that as a sensitive, introverted woman, I need to strike a better balance between my desire for adventure and my need for solitude when I travel. And so, I decided to embark on an inner exploration of this topic.
My first “stop”? Getting clarity on what makes us become overwhelmed when we travel.
From Pre-Trip Excitement to Overwhelm Upon Arrival
For sensitive introverts like me, our tendency to feel overwhelmed often stems from crowded spaces, loud events, and extensive socializing. These are common triggers for us.
The hustle and bustle of busy tourist areas and large gatherings can quickly drain our energy.
Moreover, we often try to keep up with our travel companion’s schedules even when we need time to recuperate. And if we’re travelling alone, we might push ourselves to do more because we think we “should” embrace society’s fast-paced travel ideals.
Unfortunately, when we try to keep up with a fictional idea of what we think travel “should” be, we miss the forest for the trees.
Missing the Forest for the Trees
Here’s the thing: pushing ourselves beyond our limits will not help us to truly appreciate the journey.
Travelling isn’t about checking off a list of landmarks or racing from one activity to the next. It’s about embracing new cultures, savouring the cuisine, and immersing ourselves in the local way of life.
When we overload our schedules and neglect our need for moments of solitude and reflection, we miss out on the rich experiences that travel has to offer. We lose the chance to truly connect with the places we visit and absorb the wisdom and beauty that they hold.
Recharging “On The Go”
On that fateful day two of my Montreal adventure, I hit a breaking point.
The sensory overload became too much for me to bear, and I had to hit “pause.” I turned to my travel partner and said, “I need to sit down.” So, right there, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, I settled in and pulled out my phone to “zone out” so that I could “tune in.”
Here’s what I mean by that. Sensitive introverts possess a unique superpower—deep focus.
It’s like a shield we can raise when the world becomes too overwhelming. With a good article in hand, I could block out the external chaos and immerse myself in another world. On that day, the power of deep focus allowed me to recharge my depleted energy reserves while I was on the go.
This simple act of self-care helped me end the trip on a high note, feeling recharged and content, knowing that I had experienced Montreal at my own pace. Luckily, my travel partner was well aware of my need for recharging in solitude. But that whole situation could have been a disaster had we not communicated beforehand.
Even though the trip ended well, I wanted to find a way to better manage my energy in the future. And just like that, the next “stop” on my inner exploration of this topic revealed itself.
How can we prioritize energy management when we’re heading out on the road?
Choose Quality over Quantity
First and foremost, let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and resist the pressure to constantly fill our days.
Instead, opt for quality over quantity – choose a few meaningful experiences over a long list of activities. Take breaks when you need them, whether it’s a quiet moment in a cozy café or a gentle stroll through a park.
Thoughtful packing can also help us find moments of solitude and reflection while travelling. Consider bringing your favourite books or a journal to capture your thoughts. Even simple things like a soft blanket or cozy sweater can help settle your nervous system.
Remember that your travel experience is unique to you, and there are no “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts.” By focusing on self-awareness and prioritizing self-care, you can enjoy your trip while staying true to your needs.
It’s also crucial to communicate these needs to your travel partner before you hit the road. This will help ensure that you don’t end up feeling like a car running on empty or all alone… unless that’s what you want. (No judgment ;))
Communicate With Your Travel Partner
Ideally, you want to have a conversation with your travel partner before you plan your trip. This will allow each of you to share your needs with less pressure.
Starting this conversation may feel daunting, but it’s better than fighting on the tour bus about whose turn it is to take care of the kids that night. Think of it as a short-term pain for long-term gain.
And if you approach it well, it can actually be painless… even fun, dare I say.
Here are a few tips to help you engage in a productive travel conversation.
1. Share Your Needs
If you’re an introvert or highly sensitive person (HSP), you can share how moments of solitude and downtime allow you to fully appreciate the journey. You can even explain that this isn’t a sign of you being antisocial or disinterested but rather a way to make the trip better for both of you.
2. Ask About Their Needs
Give your travel partner the space to express their needs and engage in some deep listening here. You might even start the conversation with this step so that they feel fully heard and understood by you. This can help them be even more open to hearing your travel needs.
Remember that it’s all about finding solutions that work for both of you. For instance, if your travel partner wants to attend a busy event, you can negotiate how much time you’ll spend there and make sure that there’s a way for you to recharge afterwards.
4. Shared and Solo Activities
If your partner is also a fan of downtime, you can turn those moments into quality downtime together. Reading a book or enjoying a peaceful walk can be incredibly bonding experiences. On the other hand, if your travel partner leans more toward extraversion, it can be mutually beneficial for them to do certain activities on their own. This will give you some much-needed alone time.
Remember that the goal here is to understand each other’s needs and craft a journey that works well for everyone.
So where to next?
Being a creative soul, I just had to include an art-journaling “stop” as the grand finale of this inner exploration.
Pre-Trip Art-Journaling Exercise
This art journaling exercise can help you plan your upcoming trip with a focus on both adventure and solitude while keeping a close eye on your energy.
You can do this exercise alone if you’re travelling solo or with your travel partner(s). Make sure to adjust the exercise to include everyone’s energy levels in the drawing if you’re completing the exercise with others.
1. Grab a blank piece of paper and your favourite pens or pencils.
2. At the top of the page, write the title of your trip and the dates. For example, “Overnight Escape to Montreal,” followed by the trip’s duration.
3. Below the title, draw a horizontal line representing the timeline of your trip, with each day separated.
4. On each day of your trip, draw symbols or images that represent the adventurous activities you plan to do. Beside each activity, include a small circle that you can shade in to indicate the energy it will take from you. For example, a full circle might mean high energy, while a half-filled circle could represent medium energy.
5. Along the same timeline, draw symbols or images that represent your personal rest stops or moments of solitude. Again, use circles to represent the energy you’ll gain from each rest stop.
6. As you draw your daily itinerary, reflect on the balance between how much energy you’ll spend and how much energy you’ll regain each day. Make sure that you have enough rest stops to recharge each day. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to err on the side of caution here.
7. Once you’ve completed your visual itinerary, take a step back and assess the overall picture. Are there days when you’re expending too much energy without enough rest? Make adjustments to ensure your trip has a balanced and fulfilling energy flow.
As an alternative approach, you can imagine the elements of your ideal trip instead of drawing them. Just follow the same steps but do it in your mind, visualizing the adventure and solitude you’d like for your journey.
By tracking your energy levels visually (or in your mind), you can make good decisions and create a travel experience that works for you.
Crafting Your Perfect Journey
Finding a balance between adventure and solitude in your travels is essential, especially for sensitive introverts like me. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it’s also simple to avoid feeling this way with a little planning.
Remember, travel is not a checklist but a journey of exploration. Prioritize quality experiences over quantity. Pack a few comfort items to help you sink into moments of solitude. And make sure you have a few strategies to help you recharge on the go if you find yourself in an energy-depleted pinch.
Most importantly, communicate your needs with your travel partner if you’re not flying solo. It’s better to have an open conversation before your trip than to argue along the way. Negotiate, find compromises, and ensure both of you have the space you need as well as the adventures you desire.
Thank you for reading this far. May your upcoming trips leave you feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and enriched. Safe travels, my friends!